Date of the last update: 24.05.2023
It happens to us all: as we get older, new aches and pains start to appear, and we need to pay extra attention to our health. There are some common trends in the nutrients that many people begin to lack as they get older, and there are some nutrients that become more important as the years go by. In some cases, a healthy ageing process could be supported by a dietary supplement or two. While each person is unique, health concerns that affect many people above the age of 70 include notably arthritis, and a lowered immune system. Both of these and other health issues can be supported by paying closer attention to the nutrients we need and consume.
Table of contents:
- Diet and supplementation in the elderly
- The Most Important Nutrients for Getting Older
- Important Things to Bear in Mind When Considering a Supplement
You can read this article in 3 minutes.
A healthy and varied diet should be the basis of our good physical health at all ages. However, dietary restrictions or simply momentary neglect mean that many of us lack certain nutrients, and this becomes more noticeable as the years go by. If we find we lack a particular nutrient, or we know that an intolerance to certain foods makes us susceptible to lacking certain properties it provides, enriching our diet with new foods or even supplements can be a way for us to ensure we get enough of all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that we need. Supplements may come in the form of pills, oil capsules, powders, or liquids, and although your doctors may recommend certain supplements based on your health history, most supplements do not need a doctor’s prescription, meaning that it is up to us how we choose to enhance our diet.
According to numerous studies, some of the essential minerals and vitamins that many seniors commonly lack include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. It is recommended to take a blood test to evaluate your levels of all key nutrients, and if you have low levels of any of tem, consider either integrating more of the necessary foods into your diet, or if this is insufficient or difficult, find a good quality supplement. We offer advice for choosing the best supplements below, but before rushing off to buy some pills, here are some ideas for boosting our levels of the abovementioned nutrients through a healthy and balanced diet:
- Calcium: Calcium is essential for healthy bones, and over time, people’s bones become more brittle and we become more susceptible to fractures. To increase bone resilience, make sure you get enough calcium by consuming dairy products, leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), nuts and seeds, and blue fish (especially sardines, or other fish that you eat whole, bones included!).
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D works in combination with calcium, and with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, it is essential for a robust immune system. Although there are plenty of foods rich in vitamin D, the go-to method of boosting our vitamin D levels is by spending some time absorbing the rays of the sun! However, if you forgot your suncream, some of the best foods for vitamin D include salmon, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolk, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps us absorb iron, boosts our immune system, reduces inflammation, helps us produce collagen, and helps protect against heart disease. Vitamin C has been linked to longevity, but many older adults are found to have low levels of Vitamin C. There are plenty of natural vitamin C supplements, but foods rich in this essential vitamin include citrus fruits, kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and white potatoes.
- Vitamin B6: This B vitamin is needed for the body to generate red blood cells, and it is especially abundant in bananas, leafy greens, salmon, tuna, chicken, and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin is essential for the functioning of the nervous system, as well as for the regeneration of blood cells. Although healthy levels of vitamin B12 are important at all ages, some bodies struggle to absorb this vitamin as they get older, making it recommendable to take a blood test, and perhaps integrate a supplement into your diet. Some of the foods with high quantities of vitamin B12 include beef, animal liver and kidneys, sardines, tuna, salmon, fortified cereal, nutritional yeast, and eggs.
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If you think it’s worth going a step beyond integrating more of these foods into your diet, or if you’d like to be extra sure you have enough of any particular nutrients, here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best supplements for you.
- If you already take prescription medications, consult your doctor to make sure that the supplements you choose do not interfere with your medication, as some supplements may reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs.
- Be careful of marketing. Many companies advertise cure-all supplements that are ‘completely natural’, but look behind the label. Do some research online, and look for neutral advice before choosing your supplement.
- Once you’ve done your research on the supplements that you believe could help you, take your ideas back to your doctor for their advice. Try not to take too many supplements at once, as some supplements do not work well together, and your doctor can help you plan the best combination that addresses all your health concerns, while choosing the brands that are the most effective, rather than the best advertised.
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- Harvard School of Public Health (n/d). ‘The Nutrition Source: Vitamin B6’. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Harvard School of Public Health (n/d). ‘The Nutrition Source: Calcium’. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Harvard School of Public Health (n/d). ‘The Nutrition Source: Vitamin C’. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Harvard School of Public Health (n/d). ‘The Nutrition Source: Vitamin D’. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Healthline (n/d). ‘Top 12 Foods That Are High in Vitamin B12’. Healthline
- Lakeside at Mallard Landing (n/d). ‘The Best Vitamins For Seniors Over 70’. Lakeside at Mallard Landing.
- National Institute on Aging (n/d). ‘Dietary Supplements for Older Adults’. National Institute on Aging.